Jack Straw Deplores…

I see Jack Straw has made an astonishingly sweeping statement deploring the rise in legal aid, legal aid lawyers and well, lawyers in general. He doesn’t mention ‘fat cat’ but we get your drift Jacko.

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It is obviously a complete coincidence that the FLBA have scheduled a press conference for today regarding the forthcoming Family Law Bar Association Survey Report (on which more on Monday when the embargo is lifted) and that the closure deadline on the family legal aid consultation is looming ever larger (18 Mar). Because it’s almost the weekend and I’m feeling charitable I will not say that this is an obvious and cynical pre-emptive spin attack. Because that would be mean.

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I can’t resist one or two comments on Mr Straw’s remarks:

‘People complained that fewer law firms reduced access to justice. But that confused access with physical proximity, Mr Straw said.’  For vulnerable impoverished clients who make up the vast majority of legal aid beneficiaries there is no distinction – geographical distance is a bar to access. And for legal aid lawyers (solicitors or barristers) who will under new proposals not receive any recompense for their travel time geographical distance is the diffference between viable and not viable.

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‘He also urged more devolving of work to para-legals and others so that the most highly qualified lawyers did not take on all the work, as had happened in the National Health Service.’  We don’t have heart surgery carried out by NVQ students, paralegals are not advocates, are not regulated and are not suitable for most court based work. I should know, I was one once – I knew nothing and if you had let me loose on a family case I would have wreaked havoc, with all my good intentions.

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Thanks to Family Lore Focus for pointing this article out.

3 thoughts on “Jack Straw Deplores…

  1. Most law firms employ legal Executives, Clerks and Paralegals in family departments and many of them have been practising law for longer than most of their solicitor “supervisors”. Just because they don’t have a formal qualification many of them are more able to conduct a family case than say a 2PQE solicitor. Who would you rather have on your case. a paralegal with ten years experience or a newly qualified Solicitor?

    They are regulated in that they are employed by their firms who are regulated.

    • point taken, there are some very skilled paralegals – but there is no benchmark. and there is no professional regulator in terms of skills, knowledge or ethics as with sols, barristers and l execs.

  2. That is also true, however the Institute of paralegals is attempting to redress that by providing recognised, certification, training, CPD and by introducing professional standards, much like the way ILEX did when it changed from the old Managing Clerks Society.

    As the way consumers are accessing legal services is changing, so are the roles required to provide those services and I do think in ten years time we will see a very different legal landscape in the UK with very different business and practice models emerging.

    However that said there will always be a need for highly skilled and trained specialists who should be paid accordingly for that specialism.

    Access to the law is no different to access to medical treatment in my view and should be treated as a front line public service and funded as such.

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